go to top scroll for more


Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number EP/R024251/1
Title Applying thermodynamic laws to the energy-GDP decoupling problem
Status Started
Energy Categories Energy Efficiency(Transport) 25%;
Energy Efficiency(Industry) 25%;
Other Cross-Cutting Technologies or Research(Energy Economics) 50%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields SOCIAL SCIENCES (Economics and Econometrics) 50%;
ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY (General Engineering and Mineral & Mining Engineering) 50%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Systems Analysis related to energy R&D (Energy modelling) 50%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Other sociological economical and environmental impact of energy) 50%;
Principal Investigator Dr P Brockway
No email address given
School of Earth and Environment
University of Leeds
Award Type Standard
Funding Source EPSRC
Start Date 29 June 2018
End Date 30 June 2024
Duration 72 months
Total Grant Value £818,171
Industrial Sectors Aerospace; Defence and Marine
Region Yorkshire & Humberside
Programme ISCF - Skills
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr P Brockway , School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds (100.000%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (0.000%)
Project Contact , Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (0.000%)
Project Contact , Calvin College, USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , The Bank of England (0.000%)
Project Contact , Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD), France (0.000%)
Project Contact , Higher Technical Institute (IST) (0.000%)
Web Site
Abstract Rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are creating a serious threat to our planet, through their key impact of increasing temperatures. The 2015 Paris climate agreement, signed by 195 countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pledges to hold global average temperature increases to 2 'C above pre-industrial levels (c.1750). For context, in 2015, we passed the 1'C rise mark, and most climate models forecast a 2-4'C temperature rise by 2100, unless real actions are taken to reduce GHG emissions. In short, the situation is serious, and the window for staying within the 2'C target is closing.To reduce GHG emissions, a key part of government policy is to reduce the amount of energy we use. This is because most of our energy come from fossil fuels (i.e. oil, coal, gas), and burning them causes around 75% of the world's GHG emissions. The main policy for reducing energy use has been introducing energy efficient technologies, i.e. more efficient cars, lighting and heating systems. However, a key problem exists: to date energy efficiency has not reduced total energy consumption: in fact energy use globally is still rising, slightly behind economic output (Gross Domestic Product, GDP). Thus energy use and GDP have remained linked, or 'coupled' together. So a key question for the UK (and globally) is to work out exactly how to decouple energy-GDP: i.e. reduce energy use but allow economic growth.Studying the energy-GDP decoupling problem is the key aim of my research. Given the short time to reduce GHG emissions, we need to look at this problem from as many different angles as possible. This is where my research fits in: I work in an area of research that provides a different approach to looking at this problem compared to the mainstream (i.e. most common) methods. My research uses 'exergy analysis' to study the thermodynamic efficiency of energy use in a whole economy. Exergy is energy that is 'available for work'. Taking an example to illustrate exergy: though water in a hydroelectric dam has 'potential energy', it only becomes 'available for work' if there is a difference in water level between the two sides of the dam. If one side is 150m higher than the other, then physical 'work' (in this case hydroelectricity) can be extracted, but not if both water levels are 150m high. By studying how much energy is available for work as 'exergy' in an economy (for end uses such as transport, industrial machines, heating, cooling, lighting), we can calculate how (thermodynamically) energy efficient the whole economy is.This thermodynamic measure of energy efficiency (called exergy efficiency) can give us new insights into how much energy we are actually saving, versus how much we think we are going to save. This difference also tells us how much energy 'rebound' we have, i.e. the energy that is taken back by the economy. A better understanding of the size and role of these two factors - energy efficiency and energy rebound - holds the key to unpicking the energy-GDP decoupling puzzle. This is what my research sets out to achieve. The research is a five year project, based at the University of Leeds, where I will work with a 4 year PhD researcher and 3 year postdoctoral researcher, and other researchers who will contribute part time expertise. Our research in planned in three parts, 1. we will develop national exergy datasets into a global database, which 2. we will use to identify new insights and links of the key factors (energy efficiency and energy rebound) in the energy-GDP relationship, which lastly 3. will be used to test policies for achieving energy-GDP decoupling. We have several project partners outside of the University of Leeds, who we will work together with on sub-projects: The Bank of England; the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); Calvin College (USA) and Instituto Superior T cnico (Portugal). A steering group will provide advice during the project
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 17/09/18